While reading La Livella in front of our computers or our smartphones, we usually forget about war, let us not today. Let us rather remember it. It is a war that surrounds us and composes us. A war between elementary particles, atoms, celestial bodies. Hundreds of billions of galaxies travelling at impressive speed in the universe. Galaxies that gravitate, collide, dismember and sometimes incorporate themselves in a galactic cannibalism. Each one is made up of millions of gigantic, constantly exploding nuclear bombs that we call stars, which like the Milky Way often orbit around a black hole. In turn, planets orbit around them, in a precarious balance imposed by mutual gravitational attraction. Stars, planets, even we, are all composed of atoms, in which electrons undergo electromagnetic forces due to the interaction with protons of the nucleus. Protons that would reject each other electrically, albeit they are chained together.
Ours is a universe that moves only under the violence of the forces inside it. Each body interacts with what surrounds it through four fundamental forces: gravitational force (which attracts masses between them), electromagnetic force (which dictates the attraction/repulsion between electric charges), weak force (which regulates the decay of atoms and their radioactivity) and strong force (which prevents the explosion of atomic nuclei). Nothing else exists. Any other force – blow, push, pull, friction, elasticity, chemical reaction, etc.. – is nothing more than a macroscopic manifestation of the four fundamental forces. Every single object in the world, whatever it does, does it solely driven by the total sum of the four fundamental forces acting on it. There is no will, no thought, no desire, and no change that is not referable to conflicting particles.
We live in a war, whose end would mean the total impossibility of interaction with what surrounds us and therefore the final solipsism.
Forces, therefore, are the way bodies interact with each other. At the microscopic level, one can see this interaction as an exchange of particles. Forces are namely mediated by a particular type of particles called “gauge bosons”. The photon – known to everyone – is the mediator of the electromagnetic force. The interaction between an electron and a proton can be imagined as a continuous exchange of photons, a sort of frenetic ping pong between the electron and the proton. Other force mediators are called W and Z bosons for weak force and gluons for strong force. The graviton, responsible for carrying the force of gravity, is predicted by quantum theories, but unlike the other mediators its existence has not yet been demonstrated experimentally.
Thus, we can imagine the universe as a huge mass of particles that interact with each other, convulsively exchanging an incalculable number of bosons mediators of forces in all directions without rest. Interactions occur on all scales, from tiny atomic nuclei up to sidereal distances between galaxies.
Notwithstanding, this seemingly chaotic and infinite exchange of particles, where objects move only by the fury of the tumultuous boson traffic, is actually a perfectly ordered, precise, and inviolable system. Ours is a monarchical universe: the laws of nature are given and are unbreakable. Objects have no possibility of escaping them. We live in a war, whose end would mean the total impossibility of interaction with what surrounds us and therefore the final solipsism.
However, even if immersed in violence – among atomic tumults, attraction and repulsion of bodies, stellar nuclear explosions, celestial collisions, black holes able to suck stars or planets inside them – we are able to see the miracle of the beauty of the cosmos: of Renaissance paintings, of medieval churches’ stained windows, of waterfalls and sunsets, of a Beethoven’s symphony and not least of us, who have learned to recognize order in chaos.
Salvador Dalí, painter of the atomic age – as he liked to call himself – was the first to realize this. In an interview for the BBC, the Catalan painter recounts, “for me the more happy thing is nuclear [physics], these terrific conflicts about electrons and penisons and atoms is everything jumping and rumping in a completely extraordinary eurhythmic feeling”.
Dalí had understood the power of nuclear physics, not only in its destructive aspects (portrayed in “The Three Sphinxes of Bikini“, in which he paints his vision of the nuclear experiments in the Bikini Atoll), but above all in the beauty of the microscopic conflict that is quieted at the microscopic level. This vision is most evident in the painting entitled “Dalì, nude“. In this singular self-portrait we see Dalí kneeling while observing in contemplation a set of particles, as if a body had dematerialized into the atoms that composed. The particles initially seem chaotic and fragmentary, but at a second glance we see the face of Gala, the painter’s wife and muse, portrayed in the same pose as Leonardo’s Leda and the Swan. It is from microscopic chaos that the beauty of the world appears.
In his diary, Dalí writes: “The Virgin does not ascend to heaven by prayer. She ascends thanks to the force of her anti-protons”. His cosmogony, as he liked to call it, was based on a nuclear mysticism: the fusion of Renaissance beauty, mysticism, religiosity and nuclear physics. Dalí understood the beauty of universal war as a dance of all things.
In this article, we have remembered war and the relationships of forces among all entities. But it is time to forget and let the boiling battalion from which we are made, and in which we are immersed, take its natural course without paying any attention to it. It is time to act like Dalí: let us look at beauty, knowing and forgetting that it emerges from violence.